James Hallowell — whose passion for selling Chevrolets was equaled by his love for Fresno State, the San Joaquin River Parkway, and the arts — died peacefully surrounded by his family at home on Jan. 31 at the age of 90.
Mr. Hallowell took many of the fruits of his success in the auto business and invested them in Fresno, Clovis, and other Valley communities.
He believed in the power of philanthropy and treating people fairly and with respect. He also loved business, once saying, “I always kind of liked earning money.”
The Hallowell family story was a classic American tale of rags to riches. His parents met while working in a packing house in Clovis.
Mr. Hallowell’s father, Dennis, was a former traveling farm worker from Oklahoma and his mother, Doretta, had come west from Missouri.
“He was what you called a fruit tramp,” Mr. Hallowell recalled of his father in a 1995 interview. “They had a home in Brawley, and they literally moved with the crops all the way up to Stockton. Then they returned to Brawley for the winter season.”
Mr. Hallowell also recounted that his grandparents opposed the marriage between his father, 21 at the time, and his mother, age 16. The year after James and his twin sister, Jane, were born, the family moved from Brawley to Clovis.
Determined to succeed, Dennis opened a service station in Clovis and later sold Studebaker cars and International trucks. In 1944, he bought the Chevrolet dealership in downtown Clovis for $1,500. The deal included three bins of parts.
Armed with a degree in marketing from Fresno State, Mr. Hallowell later convinced his father to move the dealership after 24 years in downtown Clovis into a new building on Shaw Avenue.
After Mr. Hallowell retired in the early 2000s, he sold the business to his friend and business partner Bill Hedrick, and thus Hallowell Chevrolet became Hedrick Chevrolet.
A Lifetime of Philanthropy With Wife Coke by His Side
His wife and high school sweetheart, the former Coke Smith, joined Mr. Hallowell in his community endeavors. The two were married in 1957.
Together, they formed one of Fresno’s power couples whose insight and backing were sought by educators, politicians, and business and nonprofit leaders.
Mr. Hallowell received many honors in his lifetime. He was the 1995 recipient of the Leon S. Peters Award and was honored with the AFP Outstanding Philanthropist Award that same year. He also received the 1969 Sid Craig School of Business Alumni and Friends Award and the 1974 Fresno State Distinguished Alumni Award. He and Coke received Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Fresno State in 2000.
James Davidson Hallowell was born to Dennis and Doretta (Johnson) Hallowell on July 25, 1933, in Brawley.
He is survived by Coke and their children, Joell Hallowell and Elise Moir, and their grandchildren, Taylor and Alden Moir.
A private family memorial service has been held. In honor of Mr. Hallowell, the family encourages remembrances to be sent in his honor to the San Joaquin River Parkway, 11605 Old Friant Rd., Fresno 93730, or the Fresno Art Museum, 2233 N First St., Fresno 93703.
Watch: Mr. Hallowell Talks About His Humble Roots and the Changes He’s Seen